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Importance of Literature Review

When researching a topic for research proposal as a problem to investigate, it usually
has to be fairly narrow and focused, and because of this it can be difficult to appreciate
how one’s research subject is connected to other related areas. Therefore, the overall
purpose of a literature review is to demonstrate this, and to help the reader to
understand how your study fits into a broader context. This paper seeks to examine
this topic of literature review, its significance and role in research proposal and report.
It will start by explaining in detail what literature is; by citation of different scholars and
its constituent components, such as the theoretical framework. Thereafter, it will look
at the importance of literature review and its role in research proposals and reports.
Finally, a conclusion will be written based on this topic.
A Literature Review is a critical review of existing knowledge on areas such as
theories, critiques, methodologies, research findings, assessment and evaluations on
a particular topic. A literature review involves a critical evaluation identifying similarities
and differences between existing literatures and the work being undertaken. It reviews
what have already been done in the context of a topic. Therefore, on the basis of the
existing knowledge, people can build up innovative idea and concept for further
research purpose (Cooper, 1998).
In doing empirical literature review is reading reports of other relevant studies
conducted by different researchers. In doing so, a researcher gets knowledge and
experiences that were established by other researchers when conducting their studies.
While Conceptual framework is a set of coherent ideas or concepts organised in a
manner that makes them easy to communicate to others. It represents less formal
structure and used for specific concepts and propositions derived from empirical
observation and intuition (ibid).
According Aveyard, H. (2010) Theoretical framework is a theoretical perspective. It
can be simply a theory, but can also be more general a basic approach to
understanding something. Typically, a theoretical framework consists of concepts,
together with their definitions, and existing framework must demonstrate an
understanding of theories, and existing framework demonstrate an understanding of
theories and concepts that are relevant to the topic of your research proposal and that
will relate it to the broader fields of knowledge in the class you are taking.
Literature review helps to inevitably draw broader conclusions, and to apply the data
to other related situations. For instance, when the researcher wants demonstrate that
the problem under study does not depend solely upon the respondents themselves.
There are wider factors in society which can affect the issue at hand. This is where the
literature review becomes important. As part of the literature review, what has been
written and researched on these broad areas and their connection with research
problem is surveyed. These facilities the researcher to determine the scope of existing
research this will show how the research proposal or report fits into the previous
sequence of studies. And further add a case that one’s research proposal or report
enhances something to what is known about that research problem. Therefore, a
literature review enables to see how new studies and research are rather like building
blocks, which are laid upon the ideas built by others, (Hart,1998).
Consequently, a literature review helps to appreciate something of the sequence and
growth of knowledge. As the previous research on a subject is surveyed, this helps to
identify areas which have not yet been investigated. These might suggest topics for
future research projects, and also might suggest a particular focus or train of thought
for the present research problem. This makes the thinking of knowledge as slowly
accumulating in the past, and of research adding to this well into the future (Jesson,
Review of related literature plays a crucial role in formulation of research problem and
the whole process of research. It is often argued those research problems not
grounded in current literature are weak. A literature review goes beyond the search
for information and includes the identification and articulation of relationships between
the literature and the field of research. While the form of the literature review may vary
with different types of studies, the basic purposes remain constant (ibid, 2011).
It is an area in which there is a multiplicity of relevant literature, and yet the very
complexity of the issues involved makes it relatively unlikely that any future studies
could be seen as duplicating previous research. The vast majority of literature reviews
serve as a section of a primary research article that provides the theoretical foundation
for the main study that is the subject of the article. In that capacity, Fink (2005)
describes multiple purposes for literature reviews. A literature review anchors the rest
of a scholarly article. It describes the content and quality of knowledge already
available, and readily presents the reader the significance of previous work (Okoli &
Schabram, 2010). As an academic piece, the review cannot simply regurgitate the
subject matter, but rather must contribute to the work in its dual approach of
synthesizing the available material and offering a scholarly critique of theory (Okoli &
Schabram, 2010).
As the investigation of what has been researched and previously written on a topic, it
is important to implicitly begin to justify the choice of subject for the research. If a many
good researchers have investigated different aspects of a particular topic in the past,
then it is reasonable to assume it is an important topic. A researcher might think,
however, that there is a danger of repeating research, and hence making it very difficult
to add to knowledge. This is not a problem which is likely to happen too often in the
social sciences (Ridley, 2008).
Another important purpose of reviewing the literature is to discover research strategies
and specific data collection approaches that have or have not been productive in
investigations of topics similar to yours. This information will help avoid other
researchers’ mistakes and profit from their experiences. It may suggest approaches
and procedures that previously had not considered. For example, suppose the topic
involved the comparative effects of a brand-new experimental method versus the
traditional method on the achievement of eighth-grade science students. The review
of literature might reveal 10 related studies that found no differences in achievement.
Several of the studies, however, might suggest that the brand-new method may be
more effective for certain kinds of students than for others. Thus, this might make the
researcher reformulate the topic to involve the comparative effectiveness of the brandnew method versus the traditional method on the achievement of a subgroup of eighthgrade science students: those with low aptitude, (Leedy, 2001).
Being familiar with previous research also facilitates interpretation of the study results.
The results can be discussed in terms of whether and how they agree with previous
findings. If the results contradict previous findings, they can describe differences
between your study and the others, providing a rationale for the discrepancy If the
results are consistent with other findings, your report should include suggestions for
the next step; if they are not consistent, the report should include suggestions for
studies that might resolve the conflict (Kirby, 2006).
Literature review helps to acquire methodologies used by other researchers to find
and solve research questions similar to the ones a researcher is investigating. It will
explain the procedures other researchers used and methods similar to the ones been
proposed. It gives an idea whether the methods other researchers used worked for
them and what are the problems they faced. By doing a review of literature, the
researcher can become aware of pitfalls and problems and could strategise well to
select a methodology that you feel will suit your research work better (Boote, 2005).
Focus on Research Problem Review of literature could help shape the research
problem because the process of reviewing the literature helps to understand the
subject area better and thus helps to conceptualise the research problem clearly and
precisely. In addition, it also helps to understand the relationship between the research
problem and body of knowledge in one’s research area (ibid).
The literature review helps to cater to Knowledge Base for Research Area. This is one
of the most important objectives of literature review is to ensure that a researcher
reads widely around the subject area in which you intend to conduct research study.
It is fundamental to know what others are doing in the field of interest or the similar
topic that is been worked on as well as understanding theories that have been put
forward and gaps that exist in the particular field (Machi, 2009).
The purpose of a systematic literature review is to provide as complete a list as
possible of all the published and unpublished studies relating to a particular subject
area. It is different with traditional reviews that attempt to summarize results of a
number of studies, systematic reviews use explicit and rigorous criteria to identify,
critically evaluate and synthesize all the literature on a particular topic (Cronin, et al,
2008). Primary purpose of literature review is to provide the reader with a
comprehensive background for understanding current knowledge and highlighting the
significance of new research. It can inspire research ideas by identifying gaps or
inconsistencies in a body of knowledge, thus helping the researcher to determine or
define research questions or hypotheses.
Literature review is also important as it can contextualize research findings by
Obtaining answers for the research questions is easy. The difficulties lie in how to
examine the research findings in the existing body of knowledge. How to answer the
research questions compared to what other researchers concluded? What is the new
knowledge contribution from the research work? How are the findings distinguished
from those of other researchers? To answer these questions, there is need to go back
to the review of literature. It is important to put the findings in the context of what is
already known and understood in the field of research interest, (Ridley, 2008).
A literature review discusses published information in a particular subject area, and
sometimes information in a particular subject area within a certain time period. A
literature review of a mature topic addresses the need for a critique of, and the
potential reconceptualization of, the expanding and more diversified knowledge base
of the topic as it continues to develop. The second kind of literature review addresses
new or emerging topics that would benefit from a holistic conceptualization and
synthesis of the literature. Because these topics are relatively new and have not yet
undergone a comprehensive review of the literature, the review is more likely to lead
to an initial or preliminary conceptualization of the topic like a new model or framework,
(Cooper, 1989).
The goal of review of literature is to provide a justification of the proposed research
and this can be achieved through main objectives. These are to review published
literature (to identify and summarise relevant theories and researches), to critique the
literature (identify arguments for and against theories, assess value of research
claims, and identify limitations in previous research), to identify gaps in literature (to
identify the gap in knowledge and areas that have only been partially researched) and
to inform proposed research (provide a rationale, background/context for proposed
research and guide selection for an appropriate design and methodology, (Ridley,
In conclusion, by explaining what has been done and what has not been done the
researcher gives a justification of own contribution hence the literature review is very
cardinal. In the discussion section, literature is used to support and criticise the
findings of others in light of new findings. For instance, in the case of Younger et al.
(2004: 248) findings show similarities to earlier studies and further to that “a complexity
of constructions of subject and teaching”. Some trainees were attracted to teaching by
the perceived intrinsic value of the subject itself, and the opportunity to continue within
the subject area and others by their own positive schooling experiences, (Younger et
al., 2004).
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